Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hamas responds to Carter request for cease-fire: attack Israeli border

First fruits of Jimmy Carter's amateur diplomacy? Hamas conducts a major attack on one of the key points where goods enter Gaza. I expect that the world outcry against Hamas' attempt to starve the Palestinians will be forthcoming shortly.

from the New York Times:Palestinian Suicide Bombers Attack Crossing Into Gaza By ISABEL KERSHNER

JERUSALEM — Palestinian suicide bombers from Gaza drove three explosives-laden vehicles into the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on the border with Israel early on Saturday, detonating two of them, the Israeli military said.

Three bombers were killed in the blasts and 13 Israeli soldiers were wounded, three moderately and the rest lightly, the military said.

Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for the attack. It came on the eve of the weeklong Passover holiday in Israel and hours before former President Jimmy Carter held a second meeting in Damascus with exiled leaders of Hamas, reportedly to explore the possibility of a cease-fire and a prisoner exchange between the group and Israel.

Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was captured in a border raid on an army position not far from Kerem Shalom and taken into Gaza in June 2006. The group is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in return for the Israeli corporal.

Two more Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in Gaza on Saturday, one a member of the Hamas military wing and the other a member of the Hamas police.

Saturday’s attack on the Kerem Shalom terminal, from where essential goods are transferred into Gaza, appeared to be part of a concerted campaign by Gaza militants against the border crossings. Hamas officials have issued threats in recent weeks about an impending explosion along Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt. This attack was the fifth to have occurred along the border with Israel in the last 10 days, according to Maj. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli Army spokeswoman.

Israel has strictly limited the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza since Hamas took control of the area last June, and since late last year has further restricted the flow of goods, including fuel supplies, as a sanction against continued rocket fire.

With the passenger crossing on Gaza’s border with Egypt mostly closed, Gaza’s population of 1.5 million is completely reliant on goods allowed in from Israel.

About 200 trucks of essential food and medical supplies currently pass through Kerem Shalom each week. On Friday, 48 trucks delivered goods including wheelchairs, babies’ bottles, meat and fish, the military said.

Israel says that by attacking the crossings, Hamas is trying to create a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that would lead to international pressure on Israel.

Hamas says it is trying to open Gaza by all available means. A spokesman for the group’s military wing, Abu Obeidah, told reporters in Gaza that Saturday’s attack was “a gift for the people under siege” and warned that there is “worse to come.” Asked why Hamas was attacking the entry points when the population was in such dire need of supplies, he replied that Saturday’s attack was “a purely military operation.”

Kerem Shalom is always closed on Saturdays and will be closed Sunday because of Passover, but Major Leibovich said the crossing was likely to reopen in the days after.

The vehicles entered the Palestinian side of the crossing at about 6 a.m. under cover of heavy mortar fire and the early morning mist. They included two jeeps painted to resemble army vehicles and an armored personnel carrier, Major Leibovich said. Israeli forces came to confront them as they headed toward the Israeli side. The soldiers escaped more serious injury because they were in a fortified space.

Another armored personnel carrier was spotted half an hour later by soldiers at a border position north of Kerem Shalom. That vehicle was blown up by Israeli fire before it could reach the border fence.

Abu Obeidah said that four booby-trapped vehicles had headed for Kerem Shalom, and that three had exploded and one had withdrawn.

On Thursday, Israeli forces shot at an armed Palestinian group approaching Kerem Shalom, killing one, and Palestinian snipers fired at Nahal Oz, the only fuel depot along the border.

On Wednesday, three Israeli soldiers and four militants were killed in an ambush laid by Hamas near the border, and 14 Palestinians, mostly said to be civilians, were killed in subsequent Israeli strikes.

Two Israeli civilians working at the Nahal Oz fuel depot were killed in an April 9 attack by Gaza militants, which caused the terminal to close down for a week.

On Saturday afternoon Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, director of the emergency medical services in Gaza, said that Health Ministry ambulances would stop running at 6 p.m. because of a shortage of gasoline.

Israel insists there are enough fuel reserves in Gaza to avert a crisis, but the Gaza association that distributes the gasoline has been on strike in recent weeks in protest against the reduced supplies.

On Friday night, four rockets fired from Gaza slammed into the Israeli border town of Sderot, causing damage to property but no injuries.

Before his meetings in the Syrian capital, Mr. Carter met with Hamas officials in Cairo on Thursday, where he asked them to halt rocket attacks against Israel and sharply criticized Israel for causing suffering to the residents of Gaza by restricting supplies.

Mr. Carter angered Israeli and American officials by meeting with Hamas, which Israel, the United States and the European Union classify as a terrorist organization.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.

No comments:


adamhollandblog [AT] gmail [DOT] com